Beep. Beep. Beep.
Okay, that was annoying. It was a sound I was familiar with though. I tried to open my eyes, but they wouldn’t work. I shifted, the hard mattress underneath me and the chemical smell that seemed to coat my tongue confirmed it. I was in the hospital.
Feelings of relief swamped me, and it took me a minute to realize they weren’t mine and remember why. I’d been blocking our bond, and Dav had convinced me to pull down the walls I’d built between us without even knowing I’d created them. But then . . . I groaned, trying to put a hand to my head. I must have had another migraine.
A sharp sting and the tug of tape on the back of my hand made me wince.
I heard him move over me and an arm brushed my ear as he reached for something on my left. I shied away from the contact, my head throbbing. Hospital lights were bright; I didn’t want to open my eyes, not if I’d had a migraine.
“Yes?” A tinny female voice came over a speaker by my head. I flinched from the sound so close to my ear. I knew I wasn’t in the clinic.
“The doctors will be right in.”
Hands on my face startled me, and I embarrassed myself by whimpering. “Shh, it’s just me. It’s going to be okay, Ellis, I promise.”
I heard a door open and turned my head toward the sound. “Hello, Ellis.”
“Dr. Pannar. What are you doing here?”
Steps approached the bed, and I could hear more than one set. I tried to open my eyes again, but they still didn’t move. I could move my head and arms though. I shifted restlessly in the bed, pulling at the sheet over me.
“Davis suggested that your doctor call me. Since you’ve mated a Carthera, you’re not exactly human anymore Ellis.”
“Dr. Pannar is here at my invitation. I needed his advice on some of the test results.” My doctor was here too? I felt my stomach churn. What was so wrong with me that I needed two doctors?
“What tests, Dr. Bakier? I haven’t been out that long have I?” My mind instantly went to Isiah. What would he do if he didn’t hear from me? He could do something stupid, like infiltrate the eyrie to try to get answers. I hadn’t exactly been able to give him much information when I spoke to him on the phone with Dav in the room.
“You’ve been out about eight hours.”
Whew. Not too long, but long enough. I had to get out of the hospital fast and get some time alone to call him. Isiah was patient, but he would be on edge with everything going on.
“Well, I’m feeling much better now, so I’d like to get discharged.” I just had to get them to agree.
“I’m sorry, Ellis, you’re not going to be able to leave for a while.” I could hear someone moving to my left and my head shot around when I felt tugging on my arm.
“Who is that? What are you doing?” I asked, pulling my arm away.
There was silence in the room. “Can’t you see me?” Dr. Pannar asked.
I shook my head slowly. “No, I can’t get my eyes to open.”
I heard a breath catch next to me. “Babe, your eyes are open.”
“What? No, they’re not, I can’t see anything. I’d still be able to see the machines if you just had the lights off so my eyes have to be closed. Otherwise . . . otherwise . . . .” Panic set in, and the beeping on the machine took off. I started shaking my head side to side in denial.
“Ellis, calm down. There is a lot going on, and we still have a lot of tests to run,” Dr. Bakier said soothingly. I felt hands on my face and the click of a light.
“Calm down? I can’t see!”
“Can you see this?” Dr. Pannar asked.
“No. I can’t see anything. Everything is pitch black.” I ignored the pull of the IV in my arm and put my hands on my face, sliding my fingers up to my eyes. I felt my lashes brush across the tips as I felt myself blink.
I saw nothing. My fingers dug into my face in panic.
Hands wrapped around my fingers and drew them down. Thumbs caressed the backs and I knew the touch belonged to Dav. I could feel his anger, and sadness through our newly opened bond, but he smothered it with calm. “Shh, try to relax Ellis. I’m here. The doctors will find out what’s wrong, and you’ll be fine.”
I shook my head and felt anger grow inside me. I knew all about my type of migraines. I knew the kind of damage they could do and what was likely to happen when I was already blind. It was a pretty short and fast trip downhill to the grave.
“Don’t try to bullshit me,” I said shortly. “I’m not stupid. I know the statistics.” I was still shaking but I wouldn’t become that patient, the one that held out false hope for miracles when I sure as hell knew better. What if Dav left me? He deplored weakness. Being blind was a hell of a big weakness.
Davis bent down and pressed his cheek to mine. “I won’t let you go, not for anything.” Shit, I’d forgotten he’d feel my emotions through the bond. Had he felt my concern about Isiah? I nibbled on my lip as I worried about that too. I almost snorted when I realized what I was doing. I’d been şişli escort completely stressed since I woke up; there is no way Dav would be able to tell what it was about specifically.
My doctor spoke at the foot of the bed.
“Your blood work, and some of the initial scan results we took while you were unconscious showed a lot of changes from the ones I took a few weeks ago Ellis,” he paused, “and Dr. Pannar and I are not really sure of what it all means. But I think your bond to your mate is having an effect on your condition. We’re just not sure what the outcome is.”
That caught my attention. “How can my bond to Dav have an effect my migraines?”
I heard a chair squeak as someone sat down. I could only assume it was my slightly round, older doctor. He often sat down and tented his fingers, speaking to me over the points when the news was something he wasn’t quite happy with.
“Did you know that there have been studies done on the effective use of venom to treat sufferers of various migraine types?” he asked.
I frowned. “No. What does that have to do with anything?” My brain wasn’t really up to speed, and I had no idea what his point was.
“Well, to our medical knowledge, no human and Snake have ever mated. It’s not exactly common with other species, but it has happened enough that it’s not a big deal. We know what tends to happen. Humans bond and develop some of their mate’s characteristics outwardly, but inside they remain human. You’re not like that. There is something about your DNA that is allowing for a greater mutation than normal.”
“I’m what, some kind of freak?” I tightened my fingers around Dav’s, and he grunted.
“No, you’re not a freak. For some reason, not only are you changing externally with the mating mark in scales on your back and the growth of a vomeronasal organ, or Jacobson’s organ, in the roof of your mouth, your blood shows a distinct chemical make-up we identified as Dav’s venom,” Dr. Bakier said.
I could feel the heat of my face and knew I was blushing. “Uh, um, that might be because he’d just bitten me a few hours before this happened.”
Dr. Pannar cleared his throat. “We are aware of that,” he said wryly, “but it’s more concentrated than a single dose should be. And it’s spreading.”
“Like a disease?” Dav made a noise in protest and I shushed him. “I didn’t mean it like that.”
“We don’t know. We do know that there is something strange going on with your brain activity, your blood work, and your vision now; everything is off. We need you to stay here so we can get some baseline tests started now that you are awake. This is important. Davis has already agreed to help us and had provided us with a venom sample.”
I heard Dr. Bakier stand up and shifted my face toward him, straining, hoping that if I tried hard enough I would be able to see him. I couldn’t. I slumped back against the pillows. This was all academically interesting to them, I’m sure, but this was my life.
And not just mine, but Isiah’s. If something in my DNA was messing with my bonding with my mate, Isiah was probably experiencing something similar. He’d had fangs like Ahsran. Did normal human mates to cat Carthera get fangs, or was it just him?
I put all that aside. I hadn’t researched much into mating and the effects on humans so I couldn’t know for certain. I had bigger issues to worry about with Isiah. Like being in the hospital while my supposedly killer brother and his mate were hiding from Velaku for another two days while I was stuck in here, blind and helpless. Even if I got the doctors to let me leave I wouldn’t be able to get to them.
Shit. Everything was falling apart.
“Ellis? You’re awake!” I didn’t have time to move before someone’s body was thrown across mine and their arms wrapped around me. I grunted at the impact then smelled a familiar wave of mint and cologne.
“Matthew? What are you doing here?”
“You know I’ll always be here if you need me, babe! I’m so glad you’re awake. Davis called me after you were admitted, and I rushed right over. Didn’t even take the time to change out of my sweats.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Wow, don’t I feel special.” The queen never went out without being fully primped and ready for action, just in case he ran into a hottie. Matthew was a great friend but he was still in that sleep with a new guy every weekend party mode.
“You know it,” he said in a saucy voice, giving me a smacking kiss on the cheek. I heard Davis hiss.
“Stop that. Matthew’s just being friendly.” I felt him move back and climb off the bed. “You are sort of interrupting though.”
“Oh! I didn’t see your doctors in here; I just saw your pretty eyes open and rushed in. Sorry.”
I winced, biting my lip when he said that. I heard people moving around and it was frustrating not to know who it was or what they were doing.
“Actually, at this point we don’t have any answers for you. Dr. Bakier and I were just about to go. We’re going to order some more blood tests and a few mecidiyeköy escort scans, take a peek at your brain. We’ll figure out what’s going on, Ellis, I promise.” I heard the door shut.
“What’s going on? What do you mean? Didn’t you just have another migraine?”
I licked my lips. “No, not exactly. It’s complicated.”
I could hear the panic in Matthew’s voice. “Complicated? What’s wrong with you? Are you okay?”
I sighed and turned my head toward the spot Dav had been last. “Dav, do you think you could ask the doctors if I can have some juice and a snack? It’s been a long time since I had anything to eat, and I don’t feel very well.”
“Ellis!” Matthew’s voice was sharp.
“Just a minute, Matthew, and I’ll explain everything. Dav?”
“Okay, babe. I’ll be right back.”
I sighed. I was really tired and could feel sleep trying to drag me back, and I wasn’t really very hungry or thirsty. I just had to get a few minutes alone with Matthew.
“What is going on, Ellis?”
“A lot I haven’t told you Matthew. Just listen, okay, and try not to interrupt me.” I rushed through a simple explanation that Isiah was doing some work for the government but somehow Velaku had reason to think he and his mate were trying to help take over his territory. I didn’t have to explain how dangerous for Isiah that could be, Matthew and I had grown up in a society where Carthera were no longer hidden. Velaku could wield a lot of power and once on Carthera lands, my brother would have little recourse if something were to happen to him.
I couldn’t let that happen.
“I need you to go to the Lucky Star motel across town and find Isiah. He and his mate are in room eight. I told him I’d call him back this morning, but obviously things came up. I don’t know when I’ll be able to leave the hospital, or what’s going to happen to me. I need you to tell him everything, and warn him to get out of town.”
“What exactly is happening to you?”
“I don’t know. Something is going wrong with my DNA and my migraines. Isiah might need to be checked out by doctors eventually if whatever is wrong with me is dangerous, but keeping him safely hidden is more important right now. This last migraine I had has affected my vision, Matthew.” It was hard to breathe and it hurt to swallow past the lump in my throat. “I’m blind.”
“Oh my god, Ellis. I . . . I’m sorry.”
I could feel tears in my eyes, and I rubbed them away. “Everything is just so messed up. It feels like the last two weeks have been nothing but one major event or catastrophe after the other. I don’t know how much more bad news I can take. I need your help, Matthew, please.”
“Of course. I won’t let you down.”
“Tell him–” I stopped talking as soon as the door opened.
“Tell who what?” Dav asked as he walked in.
“Nothing. I was just asking Matthew to speak to the landlord about my apartment. Nothing important,” I said quickly. “Gods,” I yawned.
“You must be tired Ellis. I’m going to go, but I’ll be back soon. Just run a few errands, talk to the landlord like you asked and then I’ll be back.” I could hear the worry in Matthew’s voice.
I smiled gratefully at him, one major concern now lifted from my shoulders. “Thank you Matthew, but they’re just going to be running tests. We probably won’t know anything for a while. Go home, and get some rest. I promise Dav will call you if anything happens.”
“Of course I will,” Dav assured him.
I yawned again. “Sorry, I’m just so tired all of a sudden.”
I smelled Dav as he leaned over me, smoothing my hair back. “Rest then. A snack will be sent up after the tech comes to take your blood, so you have time to take a nap.”
Matthew leaned down and hugged me. “Don’t worry,” he whispered in my ear. I squeezed him hard, so thankful he was helping me. He was the best friend anyone could have.
After my nap I had needles stuck in me as people asked questions about my family history, my personal history; that included my very personal sexual history, and just about anything else you can imagine. I was a medical test dummy, and through it all Dav stayed with me.
I wasn’t sure how I felt about us, yet. I knew I had feelings for him, but a relationship had to be built on trust. Not only had he shown that he didn’t trust me; he’d damaged my ability to trust him. With those challenges in front of us, I wasn’t sure if we could ever move past them.
Especially when I seemed to only be getting worse. When I’d gotten the diagnosis of vertebrobrasiliar migraines I’d done a lot of research. Blindness was common, and the headaches could often lead to death. I didn’t want to stroke out in my early twenties. With all that on my mind, focusing on working things out with Dav was something I wasn’t sure I could do.
Even with knowing Matthew had contacted Isiah, I had so many worries on my mind that I couldn’t seem to focus on anything. I kept expecting Dav to pressure me to fall back into the same relationship we had before the incident at Velaku’s, but he didn’t.
“Why are you so quiet?” I finally asked. “Why aren’t you bothering me about us?”
“You don’t need more stress. Our bond is important, but we have to focus on getting you well so that we can have the rest of our lives to make it work. I can be patient; I’m a snake.”
I wanted to roll my eyes. He didn’t seem very patient to me. “Really?”
His lips feathered across mine. “I feel like I could lose you at any moment, Ellis. I’m afraid,” he whispered. “I just want to be with you.”
He crawled up into my bed, curling around my body. He was careful to avoid the wires and tubes but his hands were everywhere, touching me. “I can’t be without you again. The past few days were the worst I’ve ever lived through. I was so wrong, and I can never make it up to you, I know that.
“When you fell and I caught you, you were so still. I’ve done nothing, but think about where I went wrong and why I didn’t trust you. No excuses, you were right. Mates should support each other, no matter what. I saw your memories; I know what kind of man you are. I was just so scared that I’d exposed myself, been weak, to someone who meant harm to those I am sworn to protect.
“I just hope that the man you are is someone who will be willing to forgive me, in time.”
“Oh Dav.” I reached up and pushed my fingers into his hair, pulling his forehead to mine.
I could feel his hot tears fall on my cheeks, mingling with mine as we cried quietly together while our pain mingled just as surely through our bond. It was a release, a purging of the pain that filled us both.
I realized then that as angry and afraid as I had been, I needed Dav. We had things to work out but we could, somehow. I know how much pain I felt when I thought I’d lost him. He was going to face that reality very soon, and I couldn’t let him go through that thinking I hated him.
Snakes were so unknown; he might even survive my death. That thought made me speak.
“I don’t want to die but for as long as I have, I’m with you Davis,” I said, “no matter what we have to work through. I need you.” I drew him back down toward me to kiss me again. Our lips touched, my tongue slipping out to lick at the seam between his lips to open them. I slid my tongue into his mouth and moaned at the hot taste of him waiting for me.
A shudder went through me and hit him. I could feel his shoulders shake beneath my hands.
We moaned. My hands slid up, and I buried them in his hair to tug him closer. He leaned against me, his body a warm pressure holding me to the bed as I held him to me.
The door banged open.
“We think we have it!”
I jerked, and Dav hissed when my hands pulled on his hair. I rubbed my fingers against his scalp to soothe the sting. I wanted to ask what they had, but my mouth was suddenly dry and my heart was pounding in my chest. Both my doctors were breathing hard, like they’d been running.
Dav pulled my hand down and tucked it under his chin. He rubbed it back and forth against my knuckles and asked the question I wanted to know but was too afraid to speak out loud. “Have what?”
“Well, it took a phone consultation with Dr. Pennelst. The man is truly brilliant when it comes to chemicals,” Dr. Pannar said. “Dr. Waddel recommended him before, and I’m glad we had his number. His insights were instrumental.”
I felt Dav’s body tighten against mine. “You said you had ‘it’. Tell us already,” he hissed.
I ran my free hand down his spine, stroking him in return, trying to calm him down. I could feel his frustration through the bond. That much emotion meant he felt a lot more fear than I thought. He had to be hiding it from me, trying to be confident and keep me from thinking about the death I was facing.
“Well?” Dav said shortly when they didn’t speak immediately.
I was distracted from that realization when Dr. Bakier spoke.
“We know what to do to help Ellis.”
I blinked at the doctor’s explanation. I tried to let go of Dav’s hand, but he wouldn’t let me, tightening his fingers until I stopped trying to pull away. He relaxed and caressed the back of my hand with his thumb, making me shiver.
Dav’s voice was steady when he spoke, “So, you’re saying that all I have to do is bite Ellis, and he’ll get better?”
“That’s what we think. Even with his type of migraine, his episodes were not severe enough to explain the damage to the vessels in his eyes.”
“I have Carthera blood in me?” I asked in a faint voice. I was still reeling with that little tidbit.
“Is that such a bad thing?” Dav asked me, his hand tightening on mine. “After all, you took in some of my blood when we mated. Are you really that worried about being like me?”
I opened my mouth, but Dr. Pannar spoke before I could say anything.
“We don’t really know what is in you, Ellis. Maybe that is worse. You seem to have some of the extra anomalies that Carthera have in their genetic make-up but we can’t seem to determine any species it would originate from. It’s almost like you have the genes to change like a Carthera would upon mating, but you don’t have your own species traits before then.”